ANNAPOLIS— Republican Governor Larry Hogan stood in front of delegates, senators and other officials from throughout the state for his first state of the state address as he outlined his plans for tax breaks, increased spending and business development. However, not everyone in attendance shared the same vision, including Democratic officials from Prince George’s County. […]
ANNAPOLIS— Republican Governor Larry Hogan stood in front of delegates, senators and other officials from throughout the state for his first state of the state address as he outlined his plans for tax breaks, increased spending and business development.
However, not everyone in attendance shared the same vision, including Democratic officials from Prince George’s County.
“While our assets are many, and our people are strong and hopeful, their state is simply not as strong as it could be or as it should be,” Hogan said. “We have a lot to do to get Maryland back on track and working again. The challenges we face are great.”
Hogan said his budget places an emphasis on education, transportation and tax cuts. The state’s new budget proposes $290 million in school construction funding, has increased K-12 funding and higher education funding while cutting the geographic cost of education index (GCEI) portion of the state’s school funding in half.
“We have some great schools here in Maryland, but the gap between the best and the worst schools is dramatic,” Hogan said. “I believe that every child in Maryland deserves a world-class education, regardless of what neighborhood they grow up in. We must fix our under-performing schools while also giving parents and children realistic and better alternatives.”
Hogan will also push to expand parent and student choices about where students are going to school. Hogan said he will submit a bill to the General Assembly strengthening state laws governing charter schools. The Senate has voted favorably on the bill in the past, Hogan said, and he hopes for support from the House of Delegates.
However, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III questioned Hogan’s commitment to education in the state because the county’s school system will receive $38 million less in state aid than anticipated.
“I applaud (Hogan) for supporting K-12 education. We certainly are pleased to hear that from the governor,” Baker said. “The best way to show that for us in Prince George’s County is to restore the $40 million cut to our GCEI that is a huge hit for us. Montgomery County, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County all need school construction dollars. And we’re willing, at the local level, to do a 2-to-1 match. The county is going to invest in education, we’re willing to put up 2-to-1 and have the state invest one out of this. That’s what we want to see out of this. That’s a real commitment to K-12 education.”
Baker said everyone understands limited resources with a large budget deficit, but a real commitment to education would be investing in the resources that are available to education right now for a better future.
Yvette Lewis, chair of the Maryland Democratic Part, said the governor should look for ways to help the middle class.
“With cuts to education and higher tuition being forced on our students, the governor should look for ways to lessen the load on the middle class, instead of balancing his budget on their backs,” Lewis said.
“Governor Hogan’s campaign speech today does not reflect the actions he has taken or has told us he will take in the future. He said our students deserve a world class education, yet he cut $143 million from education.”
Prince George’s County House of Delegates Leader Jay Walker said he did not see enough attention given to education funding for the state.
“Right now, our big issue is education funding. So I wanted to give more with education funding and making sure we provide a quality education for all kids in the state of Maryland,” Walker said. “I did not hear that in the state of the state.”
Hogan said high taxes and over-regulation from the state government have fostered an “anti-business” attitude, causing the state’s economy to fail.
“While most states around the country have turned the corner, sadly, Maryland continues to languish behind. The federal government ranked our state’s economy 49th out of 50 states. That is simply unacceptable,” Hogan said. “According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly half of all Marylanders would leave the state if they could. As a lifelong Marylander who loves this state, that just breaks my heart.”
Hogan said citizens have lost $10 billion dollars to 40 consecutive tax hikes during previous Governor Martin O’Malley’s two terms, and the state has lost 8,000 businesses with an unemployment rate that has nearly doubled.
With those tax hikes in mind, Hogan said he will propose tax relief for veterans, retirees and small businesses. Legislation for small businesses would create a tax exemption for the first $10,000 in personal property, Hogan said, which will eliminate small business taxes for more than half of Maryland’s businesses.
Baker said tax relief for seniors and veterans is good, but he needs to hear more details before any commitment is made.
“What exactly does that mean? Budgets at the state level are done in two-year increments. Money is spent for the next two fiscal cycles,” Baker said. “So I don’t know what that means in terms of what he cuts. If the money is not coming in then that means there is something you have to get rid of. And I just don’t know what that is.”
Even if the business community grows, Baker said, the fruits of that labor will not be seen until later down the road. Meanwhile, tax cuts will shrink the state’s revenue source.
“I think what he’s saying with these tax cuts is that he’s not getting additional money in,” Baker said. “So you invest in the future. So, even if he invests in businesses right now, he’s not going to see the return of the investment for a while.”
Taking care of veterans is a good idea, Walker said, but it is going to be a difficult task because of the need to compensate elsewhere.
“We all want to take care of the veterans, but it is not easy to do,” Walker said. “You take money from one pot and you put it in another pot. Where are your priorities? So, I think Governor Hogan has made it clear that he has concern for the veterans, but you’re taking money that could be used for education funding. So we’ll see how it plays out.”
Hogan also pledged to repeal the state’s rain tax, saying the Chesapeake Bay needs to be taken care of but not at the expense of Maryland taxpayers.
“In my humble opinion, passing a state law that forced certain counties to raise taxes on their citizens against their will may not have been the best way to address the issue,” Hogan said.
The rain tax has been an issue, Baker said, but it is a federally-mandated tax and Hogan will need to get the repeal done at the federal level of government, not the state.
“The approach we’ve taken in the county is to enter a public-private partnership and use stormwater management as an opportunity to create jobs, invest in the future of Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland and I think that’s something we want to see happen,” Baker said. “We certainly, as a county, don’t want to carry the complete load for the entire state when it comes to the stormwater management federal mandate, which, at this point, I haven’t seen anybody talking about it at the federal level.”